Arsenal’s winter of discontent continues

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Most people who suffer with the post-Christmas blues are able to shake them off fairly easy. Talk of dieting and a new fitness regime usually does the trick, the optimism of a new year and all it promises is enough to drag them forward from the yuletide low.


Unfortunately it is becoming something of a habit for Arsenal to suffer with crippling winter blues that last long enough to destroy their season – for the second year in a row now they are in real danger of seeing all the promise of their season dissipate in the space of a matter of cold winter weeks.


The Gunners followed up their 4-0 Champions League last 16 first leg tie against AC Milan, the club’s heaviest ever defeat in Europe, by crashing out of the FA Cup at the hands of Sunderland on Sunday, effectively ending their pursuit of silverware for another season and once more raise question's about Arsene Wenger's position.


Even former generals of Wenger’s glorious past have turned their back on him – Emmanuel Petit, a man who helped the Gunners claim a historic double in Wenger’s first full season in charge and won - claimed ‘this is the worst moment of Arsene's career with Arsenal’.


This season the stumbling point of their season has come a little earlier than last time.


Cast your mind back to last February and Arsenal’s prospects of ending their then six year trophy drought that stretched back to their 2005 F.A Cup success were still intact.


Sitting four points behind Manchester United in the Premier League, Arsenal occupied second place and were still in the Champions League, the FA Cup and had a shot at silverware in the Carling Cup final, where they would face a Birmingham side in the throes of a relegation battle.


That chance at redemption proved to be the explosion that blasted away the foundations of Arsenal’s 2010/11 campaign.


The defensive mix up that handed Birmingham the Carling Cup trophy last year was the ‘crucial’ turning point that prompted the rapid deterioration that now blights the north London outfit.


An FA Cup exit in the fifth round soon followed, Barcelona ended their Champions League hopes and a run of just two Premier League wins from the start of March until the end of the season almost put their Champions League qualification hopes to bed, not to mention their title challenge.


Now the knives are out for Wenger once more. The Frenchman is struggling to keep the walls of a house that was 16 years in the making cave in around him, while the few dissenting voices at the Emirates Stadium are steadily growing louder – but it was only a few weeks ago that the Arsenal faithful had reason to be at least cautiously optimistic.


Having recovered from a woeful start, their worst under Wenger and in the Premier League, Arsenal looked to be growing as a unit, while returns from injuries also strengthened the belief that they could win something this season.


A 7-1 win over Blackburn and a hard-fought 2-1 win over the in-form Sunderland moved them into the top four for the very first time this season earlier this month, while their then upcoming Champions League tie pitted them against an A.C Milan side that had been dumped out of the competition by English opponents four years in a row.


Now once more Wenger’s reign is under real scrutiny as they stumble when the going gets tough. The man himself remains defiant, although his claim that a fourth place finish this season is equivalent to a trophy not only reeks of desperation but also acts as an indication of how far they have fallen in recent years.


Few would genuinely suggest that it is time for Wenger to walk away from the club he has built in his image, but come next winter when chances to win trophies come and go, the Frenchman will be desperate to pass this acid test or face even more calls for his head. That is if he is up for the challenge of rebuilding an Arsenal side at their lowest ebb once more.

Premier League

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